European sanctions hit Russian liquefied natural gas for the first time

The European Union has agreed to a new round of economic sanctions against Russian individuals and companies, the Belgian government said on Thursday. In particular, they include measures aimed at squeezing Russia's profits from the sale of liquefied natural gas to EU members.

Most EU countries stopped importing natural gas arriving by pipeline from Russia soon after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. But the bloc had refrained from launching formal sanctions against the imports of Russian gas, leading many EU countries to purchase LNG from Russia, which arrives by ship.

The latest action includes measures against imports of Russian LNG passing through EU ports to other countries, known as transshipments, said a senior EU diplomat familiar with the deal who spoke on condition of anonymity because the Sanctions still require formal approval.

“This package provides new targeted measures and maximizes the impact of existing sanctions by filling gaps,” the Belgian government, which holds the rotating presidency of the Council of Europe, said on social media platform X.

European Union countries imported 40% of their gas from Russia before the invasion, most of which arrived overland or under water via pipelines. But more than a tenth of pipeline gas was replaced by LNG delivered to EU ports last year, according to a Reuters analysis in April.

The latest measures were agreed by EU ambassadors after weeks of discussions, as countries worked to protect their national interests. Rules must be formalized before they become law and come into force.

They also add another 100 Russian people and entities to the list of those affected by European sanctions, bringing the overall number to 2,200, European diplomats said.

Matina Stevis-Gridneff contributed by Brussels.

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